Thursday, April 07, 2005

Darfur vs. Martha Stewart

From the Coalition for Darfur

Eleven years ago today, the president of Rwanda was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali. His death served as a catalyst to a genocide that quickly engulfed the country - within one month, an estimated 500,000 people had been killed and by the time the genocide
ended 100 days later, nearly one million Rwandans had lost their lives.

The authors of the essay "Rwanda: US Policy and Television Coverage" calculated that during the three months of genocide, Rwanda received a total of 278 minutes of news coverage from the likes of ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN, meaning that each of these news organization spent less than 1 minute per day reporting on a genocide that was taking lives at the rate of 1 every 11 seconds.

Today, another genocide is unfolding in African and, as this recent article in the American Journalism Review makes clear, very little has changed
Serious reporting on [Darfur] largely has been absent on the networks and on cable. Last year the three network nightly newscasts aired a meager total of 26 minutes on the bloodshed, according to the Tyndall Report, which monitors network news. ABC devoted just 18 minutes to Darfur, NBC five and CBS three. By contrast, Martha Stewart's woes received 130 minutes, five times as much.
For those who are unfamiliar with what is taking place in Darfur, we encourage you to read this
piece
by Brian Steidle, a former Marine who spent six months working as cease-fire monitor with the African Union force in Darfur.

The bottom line is that nearly 400,000 people have died of disease, starvation and violence at the hands of the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias, yet the crisis has receives barely a fractionof the coverage garnered by the legal problems faced by Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart.

We are all aware of the central role that blogs played in the "60 Minutes" and "Jeff Gannon" stories and we know that blogs have to power to propel forgotten stories into the mainstream media. The Coalition for Darfur is an effort to unite blogs of all political ideologies in an attempt to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide in Darfur and raise money for organizations doing life-saving work there.

Though the country is deeply polarized, we think that the effort to stop this genocide is something that can unite people of varying political and religious beliefs.

It is a cliché in American newsrooms that "If it bleeds, it leads." Sadly, despite the amount of blood shed in Darfur, the genocide hasreceived very little coverage. Our challenge is to force this issue onto the television screens and the front page. We ask you to join us in this effort.

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